To a filmmaker, a critic is, to quote the journalist Murray Kempton, “the one who takes to the battlefield after the war is over and shoots the wounded”. It is a love-hate relationship. On the one hand, critics are often the lifeblood of this industry. Without them, it would essentially be like buying a phone without knowing it will spontaneously explode. On the other hand, critics often are not afraid of punching down.
Filmmaker Mike Freidman, who was present at the Dubai International Film Festival, gave his perspective on this debate.
“One should be more circumspect enough when judging a film. Because ultimately, you never know why a film is bad. You don’t have that added layer of context. It doesn’t necessarily mean the acting was bad or the directing was bad, things just went bad,” he said.
The profession of the critic is unfortunately, a dying field. The number of critics is shrinking every year. With the death of renowned critic Roger Ebert, the so called ‘golden age’ of film critics has succumbed to a slow, agonising death.
Festival goers at Diff we spoke to said reviews have no actual effect on their decision to watch a film, or even their enjoyment of it.
Student Ananya Kotian said: “I just want to know what to expect out of a film before I watched it.”
Jasim Kunhamed, another student, said: “I never ever watch film reviews because their opinion is based on what they like in a film. And, what I like in a film depends on me. So, I just go ahead and watch the film with no one from the outside,”
— The Young Journalist Award (YJA) at Diff is a training programme for high school and university students who are aspiring writers and reporters. Seven students are competing at the festival this year. One winner will secure a monthlong internship with Gulf News.